WASHINGTON—Safety and electricity production at the nation's commercial nuclear power plants continued at record high levels in 2000, according to plant performance statistics released today by the industry.
Nuclear plant performance indicators in key areas show that overall performance at the nation's 103 commercial nuclear reactors remains outstanding. In 2000, U.S. nuclear power plants reliably produced a record amount of electricity, approximately 755 billion kilowatt-hours. Nuclear plants also achieved an all-time high average capacity factor—a measurement of the amount of electricity actually produced compared to the maximum output achievable if the plant operated around the clock—of 89.6 percent.
"Nuclear power plants continued to meet the growing electricity needs of their customers while sustaining extremely high levels of safety. Because our power plants are operating safely, reliably and at low costs to consumers, there is an emerging consensus from business, academia, policymakers and the public that nuclear energy must continue to play a vital role in our nation's energy future," said Ralph Beedle, the Nuclear Energy Institute's chief nuclear officer. Beedle spoke during a news conference at which NEI and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) released the 2000 performance data.
INPO, which promotes excellence in nuclear power plant operations, analyzes performance data for U.S. plants compiled by the London-based World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) to help set challenging benchmarks of excellence against which safety and plant operation can be measured.
"The strong 2000 WANO performance indicator results for U.S. plants cap an outstanding decade of performance for the industry," INPO Executive Vice President Alfred Tollison Jr. said today. "The results show that the industry continues to place a priority on the programs and highly qualified people that make safe, reliable operations a reality."
Highlights of the nuclear energy industry's performance in 2000 include:
Unplanned Automatic Plant Shutdowns— For the fourth consecutive year, unplanned automatic plant shutdowns stood at a median value of zero per plant. This performance continues to exceed the 2000 goal.
Safety System Performance— For the ninth straight year, U.S. nuclear plants exceeded the industry's year 2000 goal for the availability of three key plant safety systems-two main cooling systems and back-up power supplies used to respond to unusual situations. Ninety-six percent of the key safety systems met their availability goals last year. Nuclear power plants are built with redundant safety systems and backup power supplies so these systems are available, if needed, even when maintenance is being performed on a system or component.
Worker Safety— Already one of the safest industrial work environments, U.S. nuclear plants for the third straight year exceeded the industry's year 2000 goal. Only 0.26 industrial accidents occurred per 200,000 work-hours. By comparison, the injury rate in the U.S. manufacturing sector was 8 per 200,000 work-hours in 1999, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unit Capability Factor— The industry's 2000 median capability factor of 91.1 percent is the highest since INPO began collecting data and exceeds the year 2000 goal for the second straight year. Unit capability factor is the percentage of maximum electricity a plant can supply to the electric grid, limited only by factors within the control of plant managers.
Collective Radiation Exposure— For the fourth straight year, radiological protection practices kept collective exposure to workers at boiling water reactors below the year 2000 goal. Exposure was below the year 2000 goal for the third consecutive year at pressurized water reactors.
WANO's performance data shows that, beyond the areas noted above, the industry improved over its 1999 achievements in indicators tracking performance in unplanned capability loss factor, solid radioactive waste volume, and thermal performance.
"The commitment to pursue excellence in plant safety that the industry initiated 20 years ago clearly continues to produce positive results," Tollison said.
Beedle said, "The nuclear energy industry's outstanding performance across the board shows that it is a mature technology contributing to our nation's economic growth. The American people can take great comfort in the fact that nuclear power plants are operated with an unwavering dedication to safety."
Nuclear energy is the nation's largest emission-free source of electricity, supplying about 20 percent of total U.S. electricity needs.
The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations is based in Atlanta and was established by the nuclear industry in 1979 to promote the highest levels of safety and reliability-to promote excellence-in commercial nuclear plant operations.
The World Association of Nuclear Operators was established in 1989 as an international organization intended to maximize the safety and reliability of the operation of nuclear power plants by exchanging information and encouraging communication, comparison and emulation among its members.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.